She stood still. Frozen. The unfamiliar surroundings swirled in front of her unblinking eyes.
“Please.” He startled her, and suddenly she remembered to breathe again.
She looked down at the middle-aged man lying on the floor. A vague recognition passed through her. She knew that face. Where did she know that face from?
“Please.” he pleaded again.
She stared at his pale face, contorted in some strange way that she recognised as pain. She looked up to the clock on the wall. The seconds hand appeared to be moving so slowly she wondered if she was dreaming.
“Where am I?” she asked no-one in particular.
“Help me. Please.” The voice seemed to come from far away, or it was travelling very slowly to her ears. She turned her head back to where the sound was coming from, but her eyes remained firmly focused on the large white wall clock. Almost half past three. Was it morning or afternoon? She couldn’t remember.
“Andrea?” She recognised that sound. That was her name. Her eyes darted down to the man on the floor who had just spoken her name.
“Andrea. Please.” Had he just said her name again? She wasn’t sure. She tried to speak but the words wouldn’t piece themselves together. She stood looking at the man on the floor, trying to remember where she had seen that face before.
A strong smell stung her nostrils and she wrinkled her nose as if trying to shake it out. What was that smell? She definitely recognised that smell. An image flashed through her mind. A memory? She had cut the skin between her thumb and forefinger while trying to dice carrots into perfect squares, and was trying to stop the bleeding by running her hand under the tap. As she had watched the diluted blood circling around the drain, she had felt a searing pain in her scalp as her head was wrenched backward by her hair. She had let out a scream, but that pain had been nothing compared to the pain she had felt next as bleach was poured into the open wound on her hand.
That was the smell. Bleach. She remembered that smell now. The owner of the house must be having a spring clean, she thought.
“Andrea. Please. There’s a phone behind you. Please call an ambulance.” The man reached his hand out, pointing behind her. Her eyes shifted to his outstretched hand and she noticed the sticky redness covering his palm. She recognised that sticky redness. Another image flashed through her mind but she couldn’t make sense of it. All she could remember was the shoe. A dark brown leather slip-on shoe with a thick sole. She could remember every detail of the pattern on the treads underneath the shoe. She could vividly recall the earthy smell that came from the mud stuck to the shoe. She could remember the crushing pain she felt each time the shoe had impacted with her head. And she could remember the sticky redness on the palm of her hand after she had touched her hair.
“Andrea! For God’s sake, phone an ambulance!” The words seemed to echo around the room, bouncing from one wall to another, but it was as if they were being deflected by some invisible force surrounding her. She knew the man had said something, but she didn’t know what it was.
The man was no longer pointing behind her. Instead, his arm was wrapped around his waist. She saw that his hand was clutching something in front of a large red patch on his white t-shirt. What was that? What was he holding on to? She watched as the red patch on his t-shirt grew bigger. Globs of deep red were starting to form around the man’s hand, running along his fingers, and oozing onto the handle of the…screwdriver. That’s what it was! A screwdriver. Why had it taken her so long to remember the name of the thing he was clutching?
Another image flashed through her mind, but it made even less sense than the last one. She recalled a bitterly-cold winter interrupted by the blistering pain of the scorching-hot end of a screwdriver burning into the flesh of her left thigh. Instinctively, she moved her hand down to stroke the scar she knew was still there. The scar that would always be there, like some kind of cattle branding she had received as proof of ownership.
“Andrea.” The voice sounded so timid it was almost a whisper, but now she finally heard him. The voice pierced through her memories and brought her back to the present. She felt a ball of acid rising in her stomach as she took in the scene around her. What had happened? She couldn’t remember. Her head was fuzzy, and it was starting to pound badly. The front of the man’s white t-shirt was almost completely red now.
The phone. She should call someone. An ambulance? The police? She didn’t know.
Then she saw it out of the corner of her eye. The shoe. That shoe. A dark brown leather slip-on shoe with a thick sole. She felt a rush of adrenaline soar through her body and her head started to pound harder and harder. She forced her shaking legs to move closer to the man on the floor, keeping her eyes fixed on the ever-expanding red stain on his t-shirt that was now forming a small pool on the perfectly polished wooden floor. She stopped with her foot a couple of inches from the man’s head and slowly looked up to his face, finally making eye contact with him. He looked up at her through glazed eyes and she bent down in front of him, cocking her head to one side to get a better look at him.
“Do I know you?” She was surprised at the sound of her own voice. Was that her voice? It didn’t sound like her voice. Her voice had always been so weak and apologetic. It sounded too cold and businesslike to be her voice.
“Andrea. I…” His voice broke and when he tried to speak again, all she heard was a gurgling noise that reminded her of the sound she had once made as her head had been held under water. She watched the man’s eyes as they turned from pleading to fear. She couldn’t remember what had happened but she knew that right now, in this moment, she was happier than she had ever been. She didn’t even try to suppress the smile breaking onto her face as the fear in his eyes intensified.
As she sat and watched her tormentor slowly slipping away, taking deep pleasure from his terror, she tried to remember what had happened. The last thing she remembered was kneeling on the kitchen floor, scrubbing the white tiling with bleach. After that, she had no memory of anything but the red stain. And perhaps that was for the best.
Andrea knelt down, quietly watching him until she was sure he had stopped breathing. Slowly, she raised herself up from the floor and walked into the kitchen. She poured herself a glass of orange juice and savoured the flavour as she looked out into beautiful flower garden her tormentor had lovingly nurtured. First thing tomorrow morning, she was going to get that dug up and concreted over.